Lebanon’s embassy in Brasília released a statement on its website and social networking pages calling for humanitarian help “assisting the victims of the tragedy and rebuilding the area affected” in Beirut, following the explosion of the city port near a leisure, shopping, and office area, where, incidentally, Brazil’s embassy is located.
The country needs medical assistance “in all fields,” the note says, as well as surgical and hospital supplies. Also requested are construction materials, “including electrical and glass equipment” and the provision of facilities and tools to reconstruct Beirut port.
As reported by Agência Brasil, the country has run out of grain reserves due to the destruction of the storage silo at the port. As a result, the Lebanese embassy also requests donations of wheat and flour, among other items, including canned food.
Destruction, work, and solidarity
On WhatsApp, our reporters interviewed two Brazilians who live in the metropolitan area of Beirut and were Wednesday (5) where the explosion took place. University professor and translator Renata Vieira, 50, who was in Syria after the civil war broke out, in 2011, was appalled by how much was destroyed by the blast.
Also impressive was the spontaneous mobilization by locals. Residents, she recounted, with masks, gloves, and brooms, took to cleaning up streets. Some set about providing food and water for those who were working. “There was no previous organization whatsoever. There was no group planning this out. People simply took to the streets and started the cleanup,” she related.
The scene also moved photographer and documentarian Mauricio Yazbek, 52. “People came together really quickly. The city is beginning to look clean,” he said, adding the rubble had been set aside for ease of circulation.
According to Yazbek, who is Brazilian-Lebanese, despite being assailed by the explosion, Beirut still showed sines of urbanity and a sense of collective living. “Lebanon is a different place. There was no case of vandalism. You don’t see people trying to have a look inside cars forced open [by the blast]. There were stores with equipment inside and no one storming in,” he pointed out.
Brazilians in Lebanon
Approximately 16 thousand Brazilians are estimated to live in Lebanon. Some occupy noted peace maintenance positions.
Since 2011, the Brazilian Navy has led the Maritime Task Force, with over 700 agents on ships from Germany, Bangladesh, Greece, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil, making up the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil). According to the United Nations, after the explosions, 23 soldiers of the interim force needed hospital assistance and 18 were discharged. Of the Blue Helmets still hospitalized, two are still in critical condition. None of them is Brazilian.
Brazil’s embassy in Beirut is available for calls on the situation experienced by Brazilians in Lebanon through +961 70108374. The assistance center for Brazilians at Brazil’s Foreign Ministry in Brasília is also available from Monday to Friday, 9 am through 7 pm, through +55 61 2030 8820/6756/6753 and [email protected], or, outside of these working hours, through the contact line to the ministry’s Secretariat for National Sovereignty and Citizenship Affairs, +55 61 98197-2284.
A committee convened by the Lebanese government is looking into the causes of the explosion, including whether it was linked to the storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at Beirut port. The explosive cargo, used in the production of fertilizers, was in a Russian ship bound to Mozambique and was seized in 2013 by Lebanese port authorities.
According to news agency Reuters, at least 135 people died and 5 thousand were injured by the explosion, which also forced up to 250 thousand people out of their homes after shock waves destroyed building façades.
*Jonas Valente contributed to this article